“Why not get organised as an NGO?” Sadly, even in today’s world of better communication, this is not always the best proposal.
I am the founder of the Mother & Baby club, Cana, which first started around 40 years ago. This came about as a result of the Pregnancy classes in preparation for childbirth which I had first started, under the auspices of Cana, in 1977, at Cana centre in Paola. Originally I started off my career as a qualified Primary school teacher, and later, became a qualified Childbirth educator and a ‘Doula’, supporting families around the vulnerable time of Pregnancy, Birth and early Postpartum. Through the years, I was very much in touch with parents and children. This helped me realise the immediate effect of parenting on society.
Indeed, the family is where all else starts. It is known that the first 5 years of a child’s life are crucial, the very basis of life that, in many ways, is carried into adulthood. Many studies show how early nutrition, relationships, character building, outlook, communication, socialising, and community living, have a drastic effect on future generations. All of this has its roots within the family, indeed even before we are born, as we now know that pregnancy in itself makes an everlasting imprint on the baby in utero.
It is a known fact that society has totally changed in the last generation. While a new family used to be surrounded and generally cared for by experienced family members, today, for several reasons, that support is practically non-existent. This results in new mothers feeling very much alone and inadequate in their important role of parenting. In spite of the good medical care, statistics of a rise in postnatal depression show this around the globe. Unfortunately, this feeling of inadequacy does not stop in the first weeks after the birth, but is often taken into the later years of parenting.
I have always believed that the ‘village’, indeed, the non-medical community around the new family, used to be its holistic insurance for thousands of years. In the absence of the ‘village’, today, the young parents find no one to turn to for prolonged practical, psychological, emotional and social support. This is highly stressful, negatively affecting relationships between parents and with the baby / siblings.
In such a situation, the last thing that the family will want to give time for, is organising an NGO to voice their needs! It is next to impossible to find the necessary disposition while they are going through the difficult times. Yes, help, usually medical, may be found if asked for, but many don’t ask. If they do, often it may be late. The problem will have gone deep, and then the care becomes a necessary ‘healing’ practice, rather than a ‘preventive’ one. If and when they somehow get over the bad patch, they will have moved to other stages in family matters as their child grows, and generally speaking, they will not be interested in solving other people’s early problems, while they still have to deal with their own particular situation.
After spending years trying to help one family at a time, I moved on to working for a family-oriented ‘village’ where I was hoping it could be generally healthier for the young family to live in. Marsaskala, a village in the South is graced by a large number of young families. Here again, while the people involved in organising a better living space for residents did not have serious personal problems to deal with, getting organised as an NGO to help better the place, proved to be a very difficult mission. Dealing with excessive bureaucracy, politics, religion, and strong business interests showed that generally speaking, the well-being of residents does not always come first. Not all residents have the energy and time to dedicate to vociferous organisations which are ready to be on the forefront to fight for rights.
In an ideal world, no NGOs will be necessary, as the people in authority should be conscious of what is necessary for better living, and should work for what is right without the need to be pushed into doing so. Until this happens, NGOs will have to struggle through, with the hope that things get better.